What do you think when you imagine someone with hearing loss? An elderly person, a grandparent perhaps, with gray hair and hearing aids?
The truth is, that picture is no longer the whole picture of hearing loss.
According to the Hearing Health Foundation, nearly 48 million Americans of all ages have at least some trouble hearing.
- Approximately 33% of Americans between ages 65-74 have hearing loss
- Almost 50% of those 75+ have hearing loss
While there is no doubt that age plays a significant role in that loss, what many don’t realize is how early it can actually happen. In fact, experts estimate that:
- Nearly 15 percent of American adults between 45 and 64 and
- Eight million between 18 and 44 have hearing loss.
If you think you’re too young to have hearing loss, despite that nagging feeling you may be getting that you’re missing out on pieces of the conversation, think again!
How hearing loss happens
There are many reasons hearing loss occurs. It could be a genetic hearing loss, an underlying condition such as high blood pressure, a condition like Meniere’s Disease. One of the most common reasons is noise.
With ever more present noise in our environment, it isn’t surprising that hearing loss is now becoming more common in younger ages. Even teenagers and children are now experiencing higher rates of hearing loss!
As sound waves assault the ears, traveling from the outer to the middle to the inner ear, they can pose a threat to the delicate hair-like structures of the inner ear. When these structures located in the cochlea are damaged, hearing loss is the result. With fewer structures to pick up sound vibrations, fewer sounds can be translated to the brain to hear.
While experts continue to debate safe decibel levels, many consider 85 decibels to be safe over an extended amount of time. Let’s put that sound level into context. Here are some common sounds and their decibel levels:
- Refrigerator = 50 decibels
- Normal conversation = 60 decibels
- Washing machine = 70 decibels
- An MP3 player at maximum volume = 105 decibels
- Car horn = 110 decibels
What you can do
The most important first step is to recognize that hearing loss is not exclusive to a particular age group. While age is a risk factor, hearing loss does not discriminate. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders stresses that “exposure to harmful noise can happen at any age…”
There are several steps you can take to protect your hearing health and prevent or manage hearing loss. It’s never too early to start!
- Schedule a hearing evaluation
This is a must to help prevent and monitor hearing loss. A hearing evaluation can help provide valuable information including a baseline and prevention recommendations from a hearing healthcare provider. Noise-induced hearing loss is often so gradual that it can take years to detect without a professional evaluation.
- Protect your hearing
Make use of protective gear such as noise-canceling headphones and earplugs to help reduce your noise exposure. Turn down the volume on devices whenever possible and, in general, avoid noise exposure. All of this can help prevent noise-induced hearing loss at any age.
The biggest mistake any of us can make when it comes to hearing health is assuming hearing loss won’t affect us. No matter your age, hearing loss can happen. Take steps like these to reduce your risk. If you’re ready to schedule a hearing evaluation or looking for more help to prevent hearing loss, call our office now to schedule an appointment.